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Wellington - A New Zealand man has reportedly been charged with the grisly crime of pinching two human toes from an exhibition of real human bodies in Auckland.

The 28-year-old appeared in the Auckland District Court on Monday charged with improperly interfering with the dead body of an unknown person, the New Zealand Herald reported.

The plastinated toes the man tried to take home in May from Gunther von Hagens' Body Worlds Vital exhibition were worth 5,500 New Zealand dollars (3,808 dollars) each.

The travelling exhibition was created by Angelina Whalley and her husband physician and anatomist Gunther von Hagens.

Hagens developed a preservation process known as plastination in the 1970s while he was working at the University of Heidelberg to teach students about anatomy.

Since 1995, more than 45 million visitors in over 121 cities in America, Europe, Asia and Africa have seen the travelling exhibition, which featured more than 150 anatomical specimens of real human bodies.

More than 17 000 volunteers have donated their bodies to von Hagens' Institute for Plastination, which also sends specimens to medical schools around the world